On the rock

Often I begin a poem that doesn’t get further than free writing, initial thoughts, or a few lines. Even so, the expressions and ideas are still worth sharing. The text below is from a poem that felt too skeletal and wasn’t working, so I removed the line breaks, edited a little, and made it into this short flowing thought.

You find yourself upon a rock, your sea legs countering waves which are not there. You are shaken, on unshakable ground. The sea rocks you, for the rock will not move; it is steadfast, unyielding. Your legs anticipate lurches which do not come. Though the waves knock on, they meet an Absolute, upon which you stand not drifting tumbling relative. What definite stance, desperate hands, slick feet held fast. Comfort, home, unexpected, sickening, Dizzy you cling. Waves would drag you, calling “Come back”. But the waves are no longer inside you.

Your rod and staff, they comfort me

Now in death's valley, every shadow
holds a haunting whistle, low.
  And dimly lit, diffused through haze
  they make the shapes that shake one's gaze
    and settle groundward eyes. The clouds
    and fears creep dankly round and shroud
      the valley heavy, ripe for rot -
      if faced with fear, I hear him not.
  Of course the evil lurks, but who
  should fear it when God walks with you?
And faced with something real to fear
I press the psalter to my ear:
  "Do not" he says, "Do not join in
  with those whose trembling minds would spin
    them down to dread of loss that looms,
    and spread the stifling breath of gloom."
      For all the worst that may befall,
      the Lord himself does guard my soul.
  Of course the evil lurks, but who
  should fear it when God walks with you?

The pandemic and infodemic weighed heavily on me today. I took a break from trying to work, to meditate on Psalm 23:4.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 (WEB)

I started to think on all the times we are reminded not to fear, and how the instruction is never given in the absence of a “fear stimulus”. God acknowledges that there is “something to fear”, and yet in that context he tells us not to fear. This doesn’t mean that we are immune from suffering, illness, loss or death. It positions fear as the antithesis of trust, both of which are responses to circumstances which seem to threaten the fulfilment of a promise. What has God promised? What circumstances will change our trust in him to do what he has said he will do? We must watch our hearts, and lead them to measure every fear against the sovereign plan of God, remembering that he is good, and that Christ will not lose us. Then, though we may suffer, we shall not lose faith and hope. Rather than falling to the stifling, paralysing zeitgeist, we lift our eyes to Jesus, our only hope in life and in death.